Golder to Gauge Consequences of Dam Failure Across Newfoundland & Labrador

With the effects of climate change becoming even more prominent, the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government is initiating a program to study and prepare for large-scale floods. The program is scheduled to complete in March 2020 and is funded 50-50 by the province and federal government’s national disaster mitigation program.

As part of this comprehensive program, Golder will focus on a study of dams in municipalities across the province to evaluate the potential effects of a dam break on the community. Over the last three years, Golder has worked with the government in developing and maintaining an inventory of dams which catalogues all dams in the province and their corresponding information including physical characteristics, Canadian Dam Association (CDA) Dam classification, and any inundation maps, reports or drawings available. During this project it was noted that most municipal water supply dams are lacking information including a CDA dam classification and inundation mapping. The current project will complement the previous dam inventory project completed by Golder and will focus on filling these data gaps by studying the effects of a hypothetical dam break for over 150 municipal water supply dams throughout the province. The study will look at the effects of a potential dam break during present day conditions, as well as with the anticipated effects resulting from climate change over the coming decades.

By mapping the initial inundation areas, the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment can identify areas with the potential to be further impacted by climate change as well as associated flood alert levels.  The maps will also illustrate details such as depth and velocity of water which assists the work of first responders and allow towns to better prepare in the event of a major dam break.

“In recent years, many provincial governments have been placing a greater emphasis on dam safety to try and eliminate the occurrence of public safety incidents and dam failures. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has proactively undertaken several significant initiatives over the last few years to deal with the growing concerns regarding dam safety,“ said Andrew Peach, Golder’s Project Manager for this effort. “Our St. John’s office, along with the valuable support of other Golder offices throughout Canada, is very proud to have contributed to these past projects and is looking forward to continued collaboration with the provincial government on this timely and important issue.”

The project will result in the development of dam break flood inundation maps that will be incorporated into preliminary community emergency response plans, as well as help to assess the possible consequences of a dam failure, and assign preliminary Canadian Dam Association dam consequence classifications to help further determine the design criteria for the dam and the level of effort that dam owners should put into their dam safety management program.

Ultimately, the goal is to enhance public safety by understanding the consequences of a potential dam failure and to help reduce dam safety risks when flood events occur.

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